Sophie Baron, founder of mamamade, shares her tips about how to start weaning.
The introduction of solids is an exciting and important time for you and your baby, but it can also be extremely overwhelming. Here are our tips to help you take charge and feel confident, with everything you need to know about when to start introducing solids, what foods to start with, and more.
When should I start introducing solids?
As your baby grows and becomes more active, their diet needs to diversify in order to meet their needs, both physical and developmental.
Though in some cases weaning can begin around 4 months (and usually never before 17 weeks), babies are typically ready for solids around 6 months, when they exhibit the following developmental signs:
- Able to sit up and hold head steady on their own
- Able to swallow food – has lost reflex to thrust tongue
- Has good coordination – can look at food, grab it, and move it towards his or her mouth
Why should I wait until 6 months?
While your baby may chew his or her fists, wake more frequently in the night, and want more milk than usual before 6 months, these on their own are common things babies do and aren’t signs of readiness for solids – and (sorry to disappoint!) introducing solids does not ensure your baby will sleep any better, so frequent night waking is not typically an indication of readiness to eat solids.
It’s an exciting time, but there’s no need to rush this milestone. By waiting until 6 months, your baby is more likely to display all signs of readiness and therefore adjust quicker to this new world of food.
If your baby suffers from reflux or was premature, consult your paediatrician, GP or health visitor prior to introducing solids.
What happens to all those milk feeds?
Your baby should still drink his or her usual milk (formula or breast) until they are 12 months – at which point you can start replacing with whole milk. Not only does this ensure your baby will continue to receive the nutrition they need, but it also provides them with the comfort of familiarity.
Don’t be alarmed if they start to cut back naturally on their milk, this is typically just a sign that they love their food, and as long as they are receiving a varied and healthy mix of foods, there’s no need to change anything about that!
Setting a mealtime routine
You should continue providing morning and bedtime feeds, but it will take some trial and error to determine what schedule works best for your little one in the day.
If he or she loves milk and is a big drinker, you may want to start meals with solid food and offer a milk feed after. If he or she is not a big fan of milk, start with the usual milk feed and then offer solids.
I always suggest starting solids with the second feed of the day (typically around 10-11am). This gives time to observe your baby over the course of the day for any reactions.
Between 6 – 9 months, your baby will begin to catch on to the concept of eating solids, and at this point you can start to introduce a firmer routine of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. By introducing mealtimes, your little one will begin to understand the social aspect of eating on a schedule (but if your baby isn’t hungry, don’t force it, move on without making a fuss).
What to eat?
Take a deep breath and rest easy, because the good news is that there are no rules!
Clinical studies show that the best way to set your baby up to love vegetables for life is to introduce single vegetable flavours early on in weaning, without mixing them with fruit to sweeten.
Avoid baby rice and weaning biscuits, as these are nutritionally empty compared to fresh vegetables, and do not contribute to palette training or education.
Start by pureeing vegetables with some of your baby’s usual milk to get them accustomed to the new taste sensation. Gradually, you will make these mixes lumpier or move to steamed pieces of veg.
The white part of leek, courgette, and sweet potato are all great first vegetables to start with, as they’re naturally tasty as well as easy to digest, in addition to being nutritional powerhouses.
You can start with any ‘meal.’ Offer your baby a tablespoon or two of puree or mash just before their usual milk feed. Don’t worry too much about ‘how much’, but rather tune in to your baby’s hunger and fullness cues.
It’s advised to offer a combination of purees and finger foods between 6 – 8 months. Babies love experimenting and exploring self-feeding, and it can encourage a better relationship with food in the long-term. When offering finger foods, ensure fruit and veg are soft and cut into baton shapes. Start transitioning your baby to gradually lumpier foods and increased amounts of finger foods as soon as they are comfortable with the concept of eating.
Unless there is a history of allergies in the family, there is actually no need to start with single vegetables – especially as most vegetables are not typical allergens. Always consult with a doctor or health visitor if you have any concerns.
Discovering, Not Feeding
Ideally, weaning should be a reassuring and positive experience for your baby. But admittedly, it can be scary and frustrating for parents. And let’s not talk about the mess!
One way to stay cool? Keep reminding yourself that this process is about teaching your baby about flavours and textures and the social aspect of eating – not trying to fill tiny bellies (there’s milk for that!).
You can’t rush weaning – it’s an ongoing process of learning and teaching. And there’s no finish line! We’re all still learning to tolerate and enjoy new and different textures and flavours, aren’t we?
So, try not to get discouraged if your little one doesn’t take to it quickly. It can take up to 20 tastes for a baby to decide he or she likes something! Just keep going. You’ve got this!
Don’t know where to start? mamamade helps your baby discover the real taste of real vegetables and spices, with nutritious meals homemade by you in minutes.